By Megan Kiely

It would be a lie to say a negative stereotype did not loom over Eastern Kentucky. For decades, the misunderstood culture was branded by the narrow-minded as a population of uneducated, unimportant hillbillies. Perhaps all they needed was an opportunity.

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (KVEC) is a collection of individual educational groups that offer services to 19 member district schools throughout Eastern Kentucky. KVEC consists of a large staff of dedicated and competent educators whose main goal is to provide opportunity by improving life and education for Appalachian students.

Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative Associate Director, Dessie Bowling, is one of many to see the prospective potential of this neglected region and has helped set this goal into motion with the creation of the organization.

Bowling says KVEC has an intentional focus on improving teaching, leadership and learning throughout the region.

Ron Daley, strategic partnership leader for KVEC, praised the organization and its efforts to advance the Appalachian region.

“We are effective by being the oldest, most experienced and ambitious of any of the other Kentucky co-ops,” Daley said.

Daley also supports the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative. SOAR aims to develop opportunities for the people of Eastern Kentucky and to lift the stereotype that has tainted the culture of the region.

Daley hopes that by working together, KVEC and other like organizations can improve the economy of the region and create a more sustainable, improved society.

 KVEC is a recipient of the Race to the Top grant funding, which is being used to break educational barriers in the Appalachian region.

“We have visionary leadership and a very diverse team of professionals hired from the local school districts and colleges to implement the Race to the Top grant," Daley said.

 KVEC's initiatives are shaping and showcasing the region's capabilities and growing economy.